Since MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games have skyrocketed in popularity many companies have sought to put their own twist on MOBA by releasing their own client. Despite this,only three of its kind remain on top of the most-played list: League Of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, and Dawn of the Ancients. Being the first major MOBA game out there, DOTA definitely set the standard as far as graphics and style are concerned.
Seeing DOTA as a big competitor, Riot Games created League of Legends, focusing all its financial resources into creating a game that could bash horns with the long-standing Warcraft mod. By reinforcing League’s progression with sponsorships and tournaments, Riot has made LoL into the most played PC game on the planet, with over 33 million players.
Trailing far behind in release date (but not quality) was HoN, and it brought with it fast gameplay and rich graphics. Though DOTA was released first, League and HoN have made impressive marks in the MOBA world. And even if they share the same genre, these games differ in many ways.
In HoN and DOTA, the player delegated to each lane is determined by the length of the lane, whereas in LoL each champion is pre-selected, and sent to lanes based on their damage type and role.
To buy items in LoL, your champion must be in the close proximity of the home shop (standing on base fountain). This prevents players from holding a position on the field for extended periods of time, as allowing the enemy to buy better equipment can prove fatal to your team. In DOTA, players are able to buy items at a “Side-Lane Shop”, where most of the items found at the base market can be found allowing them to hold the lane longer without having to return to base. The system in HoN is sort of a hybrid - players can buy items away from home, but they apply no benefit or buff until the player returns to base to pick them up.
All three games feature collectable buffs located in the northern and southern river, known as “runes” in HoN and DOTA. To get buffs in LoL you must slay one of the two monsters in the top or bottom jungle, or the Baron Nashor (best buff in-game) at the upper river segment.
All three games employ a leveling system, though LoL is the odd one out. HoN and DOTA have a level cap of 25, allowing the character to have 4 upgrades for each ability, plus a few extra levels for tweaking base stats. In LoL, the level cap is 18, but champion's base stats can only be manipulated through other factors such as items, runes and mastery points. LoL champions also have an extra passive ability, which HoN and DOTA characters do not.
In all of these games, a moderately sized map is implemented for players to move about and strategically plan engagements. The map in HoN features destructible terrain, allowing for the impromptu creation of paths for ganks or escapes into the jungle. LoL provides small patches of dense vegetation, known as "brush", spread throughout the map (mostly in the jungle and river), which can be used to stealthily navigate or to ambush ones foes. DOTA terrain is similar to what is found in LoL, but is absent the brush and crafts the shape and length of the river and lanes a little different. DOTA and HoN both feature aggressive creeps in the jungle which attack on sight, whereas in LoL, creeps only attack if attacked first.
Razing, or better known as Denying, is a mechanic present in HoN and DOTA but absent in LoL. It allows intentional friendly fire to minions or buildings in order to prevent the enemy from receiving gold from the kill. While it is more of a “last resort” maneuver, its effective at both stopping your opponent from buying items and also, annoying them.
Death comes with consequences, at least in HoN and DOTA. When you die, you lose a percent of your gold, so dying is something you literally cannot afford to do. Death in LoL, however, has no consequences aside from mockery from your own team and feeding the enemy. As for respawning, HoN offers you the ability to pay for an instant respawn which will increase in cost depending on how many times you use it. LoL does not give you the option to do this, but gives you the summoner spell “Revive” that can be used periodically to respawn at home base.
I've played all three, and my personal favorite is League of Legends, for its cartoony feel and casual-to-hardcore gameplay.